Pittsburgh Pirates: Ben Cherington Following a Similar Approach of the Dodgers

Ben Cherington has vastly improved the farm system since becoming the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s brought in a ton of pitchers, getting Brennan Malone, a top high school arm and first-round pick in the 2019 draft, in the Starling Marte trade from the Diamondbacks, then selecting five pitchers in the 2020 draft, four of which are considered top 30 organizational prospects by FanGraphs, then getting two more from the Washington Nationals in the Josh Bell trade and most recently acquiring three arms as part of the package for Joe Musgrove.

However, he’s also acquired four notable position player prospects since taking over as GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates. When you look at each, you might notice a trend. It’s also a trend that the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won the 2020 World Series, won the National League West every year since 2013 and have gone to three of the last four World Series, when bringing in young players.

The four notable position players are as follows in terms of first acquired to latest acquired. I will also be including their career batting numbers:

Liover Peguero: .299/.354/.428, 7.6% walk rate, 19.5% strikeout rate, 410 plate appearances

Nick Gonzales: .399/.502/.747, 14.9% walk rate, 13.3% strikeout rate, 596 plate appearances (NCAA-level)

Hudson Head: .283/.383/.417, 10.6% walk rate, 20.6% strikeout rate, 141 plate appearances

Endy Rodriguez: .276/.389/.452, 13.2% walk rate, 16.6% strikeout rate, 265 plate appearances

These four players have one one major part of their game in common: they’re all contact driven hitters who have above average plate discipline. Peguero has the worst walk rate of the four, but he’s seen it rise in recent seasons. Head’s strikeout rate may be the highest, but he drew a handful of walks and is only 19-years-old. Both Gonzales, at the college level, and Rodriguez, through his pro career, have shown a great ability to draw walks while avoiding strikeouts.

So, what does this have to do with the Los Angeles Dodgers? In an article written by Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser, the Dodgers’ scouts, on every level, are told to scout for athletic, versatile players. The main tools to look for in players are being able to “hit for high average and have strong plate discipline.”

Throughout the article Glaser points out that despite being some of the league’s most threatening power hitters in today’s game, Will Smith, Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger were seen as guys with more of a hit tool than a power tool. This also works with their under-the-radar acquisitions. Using Max Muncy, Justin Turner and Chris Taylor as examples, Glaser shows that all three had high batting averages and high on base percentages, yet both Turner and Muncy have put on huge displays of power since arriving in Los Angeles and Taylor has an isolated slugging percentage of .199 with the Dodgers.

This has helped the Dodgers build the closest thing to a modern baseball dynasty. Not only are they always in contention and potential World Series contenders, but they are always considered to have one of the best farm systems in baseball.

In terms of future grades, all four have hit tools that are seen as well above average, all sitting with 60-future grade hit tools. However, all are seen as players that could grow into unlocking more power as they continue their careers. Gonzales might be more of a doubles-hitter, but doesn’t lack the potential to be a consistent 20-homer threat. Gonzales drew comparrisons as a more athletic version of Milwaukee Brewers’ second baseman Keston Hiura, who’s already hit 32 home runs in 549 plate appearances in the Majors and hit 36 throughout the minors.

The San Diego Union Tribune states that Head could have 55-60 grade power by the time he reaches the majors. Rodriguez currently has a hit-over-power outlook, but according to MLB Pipeline, could surprise some with his ability to develop power. Many think Liover Peguero can add bulk to his 6’1″, 160 frame to have at the very least average power. In my article talking about Peguero’s potential, I drew similarities to Washington Nationals’ shortstop Trea Turner, who averages 22 home runs per 160 games.

Cherington has taken the hit-over-power route with the four position prospects he’s broght in. All hit for a good average while drawing walks and/or prevent strikeouts. This is similar to what the Dodgers are doing. Now, ovbisously, you still need to develop the players, but it’s clear Cherington is taking a page from their playbook which gives the Pittsburgh Pirates a bright outlook for the future. It also helps that Cherington knows how to build a winner helping put togehter the Red Sox’ World Series Championship team in 2013, and helping to construct the core that won the Red Sox another championship in 2018, as well as the Toronto Blue Jays current core that looks like it could be front runner for the American League East.